ORANGE—Sentencing in a nearly two-year-old shooting case in Locust Grove was delayed for the second time on Monday due to unavailability of a defense witness and defense judge preference.
Alonte Pernell, 25, pleaded guilty in December, per an agreement with the prosecution, to unlawful wounding and unlawfully shooting in the commission of, or attempt to, commit a felony in the June 14, 2017 incident in the Somerset Ridge housing development, located off of Route 3 in eastern Orange County.
The defendant was originally scheduled for sentencing in March, but the defense was granted a continuance in the absence of Circuit Court Judge Dale Durrer, who presided over the plea deal and who defense attorney Eugene Frost felt was most familiar with the complicated case.
At Monday’s rescheduled hearing, retired Judge Daniel Bouton was on the bench for the repeat request for a continuance. This time, Frost requested the delay due to the unavailability on Monday of a defense witness from the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission. He said sentencing guidelines in the case call for a new computation and the witness was needed to speak on that.
Frost also said, “Sentencing should really be in front of Judge Durrer,” noting the circuit court judge had read many pages of transcripts in the long case. Bouton quickly granted the motion and the commonwealth did not object.
The new sentencing was set for 9:30 a.m. on July 26. Addressing the defendant, Bouton said, “I’m sure you’re anxious to get this matter resolved,” explaining the reasons for the continuance, which Pernell said he understood.
The recently retired judge said it would be more appropriate for Durrer to preside at sentencing and also granted the delay “to make sure the guidelines are properly explored at sentencing.”
It’s been a year since Pernell’s jury trial on more serious charges—including malicious wounding—ended in a mistrial in a case that’s been presided over by three different judges. Since then, the defendant, who had no prior criminal history, admitted to shooting a Stafford woman, Lynika Chapman, in the leg outside of his mother’s house, where he lives, on Chesterfield Road on that June 14 morning.
Pernell claimed the woman, who was with his child’s mother at the time, stabbed him in the head that morning as he lay asleep in the bed with his fiancé. The violent conflict started with threatening text messages the two women believed were coming from his fiancé so they showed up to confront her, according to the prosecution. Chapman and the mother of his child did not testify at trial and have been uncooperative with prosecutors.
At trial, the jury inquired about convicting Pernell of a lesser charge, leading to the mistrial. The defendant faces a maximum 10-year sentence in the shooting. According to trial testimony, Pernell was seen running down the road chasing the women while shooting his mother’s gun.